Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Inelegant Gardener’s Almanac for 2011



  • Plant out the tulips that I failed to plant when they arrived. Purchase crowbar to push through frozen soil and wedge tulips into crevices. Desultorily fill in crevice with sodden soil, as excitement of bulb planting quickly wears off as I start to lose feeling in my fingers.
  • Use newly purchased crowbar to try and prise last year’s parsnips out of the frozen ground. Parsnip lollypops could be the ‘next big thing’.
  • Get over-excited with the seed catalogues, forgetting the avalanche of packets in the garage, bought in the autumn. Realise that the rush of excitement when buying seeds must be how normal women feel when they buy a pair of high-heeled shoes.
  • Peer at feet, troll-shaped from many years of welly-wearing, fail to imagine them crushed into a pair of Manolo Blahniks. Buy more seeds.
  • Order seed potatoes as I will have forgotten to have ordered them in the autumn.


  • Rue the fact that once again I failed to buy any snowdrops last year
  • Sow parsnips, forgetting that they always fail to germinate as I have planted them too soon and the soil is too wet and cold.
  • Panic when two deliveries of seed potatoes arrive, as I hadn’t forgotten to order them in autumn. I have enough potatoes to start up my own Spud-U-Like franchise.


  • Fail to remember to buy snowdrops in the green.
  • Make plans to successional sow a range of veg for the allotment, to avoid gluts
  • Sow parsnips, forgetting that they always fail to germinate as I have planted them too soon and the soil is too wet and cold.
  • Try to finish harvesting and eating last year’s parsnips, which the hard, frozen ground has only just yielded. There appears to be a 7 day window between prising the parsnips out of the ground and the parsnips becoming heroically wooden. The recipe for parsnip cake comes out, and SomeBeans starts to look worried…
  • Survey the relatively weed-free plot and think ‘Yes, we have finally conquered the horsetail, couch grass, docks, ground elder…’


  • Make mental note not to order lettuce seeds for the next three years, as over-excitement at seed buying time (see January) has led to enough lettuce seeds to supply Tesco (if Tesco were willing to take holey, slimey, slug-ridden lettuces).
  • Forget mental note instantly.
  • Remember that one year, all the courgette seeds that I planted died, so sow at least 10 courgette plants, to make sure one or two survive.
  • Sow parsnips, forgetting that they always fail to germinate as I have planted them too soon and the soil is too wet and cold.
  • Realise that the reason there were few weeds in March was because they hadn’t started growing then. They have now.


  • Get parsnips to germinate!
  • Remind myself of the importance of successional sowing, so that we get a regular supply of a range of veg.
  • Become over-excited by all the different squash and pumpkin seeds, buy six different types, and plant all of the seeds
  • In a vain attempt to keep the ground elder down, try using it as an ingredient – foraging and wild food is trendy, apparently. Realise that although the Romans may have brought ground elder to Britain to eat, a couple of thousand years of evolution of cooking ingredients means that we now longer have to eat this stuff. It’s nasty.


  • Transplant a plethora of squash and pumpkin seedlings to the allotment. after all, they are still tiny, so won’t take up too much room
  • Realise that the birds have found the ripe redcurrants and gooseberries before me. Yet again.
  • In a frenzy of hoeing, chop off half of the onion and shallot tops. Oops.
  • Forget to successional sow anything
  • Rediscover the furry loveliness of the inside of a freshly picked broad bean pod.


  • Realise that I have forgotten to successional sow. Again.
  • Rediscover some poor, lanky sprout and cabbage seedlings languishing in the back of the greenhouse, where they have been since March. Hope that, despite the brassica equivalent of Chinese foot-binding, if I transplant them they will rally round and provide greenery for the Christmas table.


  • Ahh, bulb catalogues. Time to order the little globes of anticipation. Vow to plant the bulbs as soon as they arrive
  • Not waving but drowning under an avalanche of courgettes, as all of the plants I sowed in April survived, and it felt cruel to kill some of them.
  • Give up on weeding. It only makes them angry. I wouldn’t like them when they’re angry.


  • Hack bravely at the pumpkin patch, which is making a concerted effort to take over Cheshire. It resembles Audrey 2 from the Little Shop of Horrors.
  • Bulb order arrives. I’ll just store them in the garage until I’ve got a little time to plant them
  • Wonder why work colleagues run away from me when I stagger into the office weighed down with plastic bags full of courgettes and runner beans


  • Drool over the newly arrived seed catalogues and buy things that look exciting, forgetting that there is often a reason why some veg are allotment stalwarts, and some don’t catch on. Like achocha.
  • Become smug at the huge haul of pumpkins and squashes I have cultivated.
  • Try to reassure self that the blood over the pumpkin, where I have tried to carve it for Halloween but ended up carving myself, will make it more scary to any visiting trick or treaters.


  • Celebrate first (and last) ripe tomato shortly before the first frost.
  • Think that the parsnips will taste better after the first frost, so delay harvesting any
  • Realise that the excitement of pumpkin soup palls after the first few litres. And that was just with one pumpkin.
  • Uneasily eye up the large pile of pumpkins in the conservatory.


  • Having delayed harvesting parsnips, they are now frozen into the soil
  • Rediscover the unplanted bulbs in the garage. Pretend I haven’t seen them
  • Hibernate until the days start getting longer
  • Think about all the garden jobs I failed to do properly in the year, and vow to do them differently next year. After all, only a fool would repeat the same mistakes, year after year…


Karen - An Artist's Garden said...

Love it - sounds very familiar, apart from the parsnips
Have a wonderful growing season in 2011

HappyMouffetard said...

You too, Karen x

Helen/patientgardener said...

Hilarious - beginning to go off th idea of the allotment already!! Makes me think that we gardeners are eternally optimistic but disorganised

HappyMouffetard said...

You'll enjoy the allotment, Helen - honest! At the very least, it's an excuse to buy seeds every year, without worrying about not having space in your garden.

iGrowVeg said...

You have hit the nail on the head with this post, I really enjoyed reading it. At least I'm not alone on the buying seeds instead of high heels!

And I think you've sold me on the idea of a crowbar as the new garden tool of 2011 as I wonder whether I can return the long handled bulb planter I had high hopes of using at some point.

easygardener said...

All so true - and what is strange is our ability to repeat our mistakes year after year yet be surprised when they happen. A gardener's mind is a black hole of endless optimism.

Nic said...


Happy New Year!

Juliet said...

Oh, that all sounds very familiar (substituting the odd plant name here and there - autumn to me means more tomatoes than I know what to do with, and one very small carrot).

I have about four pairs of shoes, all flat - and about 100 packets of seeds, some of which I think I bought in 2006 and haven't found space for yet :-D

KatieLovesDogs said...

I would be laughing a lot harder at this if it didn't hit so close to home : ). Today I have to plant out my bulbs because we have a thaw. Fortunately, neither a crowbar nor a blow torch will be required!

Anna said...

Absolutely brilliant :) Why does it all sound so stangely familiar and reassuring starting with planting tulip bulbs in January. All the very best for you, garden and lottie in 2011 xxx

Tracy B said...

Just the thing to read on New Year's Day - found this hilarious and after just two years of a lottie am already so recognising this cycle of events. Thanks :)

Damo said...

So much of this rings true, and is part of the joy of gardening for me.....that there's always next year! Best wishes for 2011.

Tracy Markey said...

this had me in hysterics! mostly at the familiarity of it all - unplanted bulbs and over-excited, excessive seed buying, so glad to know i'm not alone in this :)

here's to a great gardening year.

Gwenfar's Lottie said...

Ahh parsnips - the endless fight between my roasting dish and the clay soil.

I planted out some spring bulbs yesterday - the snow is my excuse for not getting them in sooner...

Esther Montgomery said...

At least you didn't eat the bulbs.

Pumpkins are boring. (Except to look at.)

I have a bonsai cabbage in a little pot that keeps rolling around the garden. I'm wondering if it will grow if I plant it out in the spring.

Have a very happy 2011.


Nutty Gnome said...

Ha ha - brilliant!
We ate our entire parsnip crop yesterday after Himself managed to prise them out of the ground!

Mal's Allotment said...

Hi Happy. That's uncanny! I cracked up at the "successional sowing" bit.

Janet/Plantaliscious said...

I fear you may have just described my upcoming year, as the new allotment already has me mentally ordering enough seed to three plots instead of my half...

VP said...

Thank goodness - I thought I was the only one cr*p at hoeing.

Excellent list HM!

ryan james said...
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